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July 26, 2005

Global patterns in terrorism; part III

Neil Johnson, a physicist at Lincoln College of Oxford University, with whom I've been corresponding about the mathematics of terrorism for several months, has recently put out a paper that considers the evolution of the conflicts in Iraq and Colombia. The paper (on arxiv, here) relies heavily on the work Maxwell Young and I did on the power law relationship between the frequency and severity of terrorist attacks worldwide.

Neil's article, much like our original one, has garnered some attention among the popular press, so far yielding an article at The Economist (July 21st) that also heavily references our previous work. I strongly suspect that there will be more, particularly considering the July 7th terrorist bombings in London, and Britain's continued conflicted relationship with its own involvement in the Iraq debacle.

Given the reasonably timely attention these analyses are garnering, the next obvious step in this kind of work is to make it more useful for policy-makers. What does it mean for law enforcement, for the United Nations, for forward-looking politicians that terrorism (and, if Neil is correct in his conjecture, the future of modern armed geopolitical conflict) has this stable mathematical structure? How should countries distribute their resources so as to minimize the fallout from the likely catastrophic terrorist attacks of the future? These are the questions that scientific papers typically stay as far from as possible - attempting to answer them takes one out of the scientific world and into the world of policy and politics (shark infested waters for sure). And yet, in order for this work to be relevant outside the world of intellectual edification, some sort of venture must be made.

posted July 26, 2005 12:57 AM in Scientifically Speaking | permalink | Comments (0)

July 10, 2005

On being average (part 2)

Last Friday, I interviewed with a writer for the Albuquerque Tribune about my appearance on Average Joe IV. The story should appear in the Tribune on Monday or Tuesday. I'll post a link to the story when it's up.

posted July 10, 2005 12:20 PM in Self Referential | permalink | Comments (1)

July 04, 2005

On being average

For your entertainment, Average Joe IV.

posted July 4, 2005 08:34 PM in Self Referential | permalink | Comments (7)